No contraceptive works perfectly. Condoms break, you can forget to use your spermicide, diaphragms and cervical caps move out of place. Women sometimes are forced to have sex, and couples have sex unexpectedly without protecting themselves against pregnancy.
If the unprotected intercourse was a single event and you act quickly, emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy. It is neither complicated nor expensive—and it is safe, legal, and usually readily available. Two methods of emergency contraception are available in the United States. One is a short course (two times in one day) of a higher dose of ordinary birth control pills. Treatment should be started within 72 hours after sex took place. It prevents pregnancy about 75 percent of the time. The pill used is not an abortion pill. The second method is the insertion of the copper IUD (the ParaGard).
Although using emergency contraception obviously is critical only if your cycle is in its fertile phase at the time you had unprotected intercourse, if you are not positive about where you are in your cycle, it is better to be safe than sorry. Because the treatment is both safe and available, use it if you are in any doubt about the possibility of pregnancy.
EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION HOTLINE
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT TREATMENT METHODS AND HOW TO FIND A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER NEAR YOU WHO PROVIDES EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION, CALL THE NATIONAL HOTLINE: 1-888-NOT-2-LATE
(This hotline is operated by the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.)
NOTE: The use of emergency contraception does not cause an induced abortion. It prevents an unintended pregnancy and thus reduces the need for an abortion.
Medical science defines the beginning of a pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg in the lining of the uterus. Implantation takes place 5 to 7 days after an egg is fertilized. Emergency contraceptives work before implantation, not afterward.
The effectiveness of this treatment is time dependent. If more than 72 hours pass before you seek emergency contraception, the fertilized egg may have already reached the uterus and begun to implant itself. Emergency contraception needs to go to work before the fertilized egg implants in the uterus.
Combined Pills. Any of several brands of birth control pills that combine estrogen and progestin can be used. Depending on the brand, you either take two, four, or five combined pills, followed by two, four, or five pills 12 hours later. These should be started within 72 hours of the unprotected intercourse. The total amount of hor-
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